Two Pulse nightclub survivors say they’re no longer gay after turning to Christ in the aftermath of the 2016 shooting. Yet in this follow-up to The Roys Report, “Is Change Possible for Gays and Trans?,” Luis Javier Ruiz says, “It’s not a gay to straight thing; it’s a lost to saved thing.” Both Ruiz and survivor Angel Colon tell Julie their gripping story of survival and transformation.
Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon
Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon are survivors of one of the most deadly mass shootings in American History. Luis J Ruiz and Angel Colon are CEO’s of the ministry “Fearless Identity,” which brings hope and understanding to the LGBTQ community and the church through education, biblical clarity, and support in a judgement free environment for those seeking the option to change. We bridge the gap between the marginalized, misunderstood, wounded, and survivors
to bring those individuals to wholeness in Jesus Christ.
Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.
ANNOUNCER: In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: Well thank you so much for joining me for The Roys Report. I am so excited about today’s podcast, which is a continuation of a broadcast that I did on July 20th that concerned whether or not change is possible for gay and transgender people. And that was a powerful broadcast, included 3 former LGBT persons with incredible stories of transformation and change. And I encourage you, if you missed that broadcast, you’re going to want to go back and listen to it. I don’t say that that often, that you need to go do something. But I’m just going to tell you, that was a great broadcast and I really do highly recommend it. You can find it at my website JulieRoys.com.
But there are so many messages in our culture, even in the church, claiming that sexual brokenness is this incurable condition. But friends, it is just sin. And as I read scripture, there seems to be a remedy for sin. I believe it’s called the cross of Jesus Christ. Well today, I have two guests who have experienced that remedy. But for both of them, there was an event three years ago that forever changed their lives. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. And yet God used that really horrifying encounter with this mass murderer to call these men back to Himself. And so I am so excited today, again, sort of a continuation of this broadcast we had about whether or not gay and trans people can change. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. So Angel, welcome. So great to have you on the program.
ANGEL COLON: Thank you so much, thank you for having me.
JULIE ROYS: And Luis, it’s a pleasure to have you as well. Welcome.
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Thank you. I’m so excited.
JULIE ROYS: So, we were joking before we went on air that you guys probably get more hate mail than I do because you are speaking into one of the most hot-button issues in our culture. About LGBT whether or not you can change. Whether or not this is something that God can transform. And I just love your message. And I love everything that you guys are about. But what I want to do is just start with that night when that PULSE shooting happened. And your experience, what happened there, how you survived that event. So, Angel, why don’t you start us off and tell us what happened that night that that mass murderer came into that PULSE nightclub.
ANGEL COLON: Yeah of course. Well June 12th 2016, of course a night that I will never forget. But leading up to that night, already a couple months before, there was something tugging in my heart. I grew up in church, so I knew everything about Jesus. And throughout the time that I was out of God’s will, I missed worshiping God, because that’s what I did. I was a worshipper. And a pact that I made was to never use my gifts for the world. And for 8 years, I never sang no song, no music, nothing. I kept that pact. And throughout those 8 years, I still talked to God. And in 2016 I was already fed up with the lifestyle. Because not only was I consumed in homosexuality, but I was also a cocaine addict. And that year, I started to pray. And I started telling God, “Lord, I need you back. I want you back. I’m yearning for You. I miss You, I miss worshipping You.” And I started to tell my mom, “Mom, please pray. I need to come back to God’s will. I want to come to God’s will.” And as we all know, a mom’s prayer is one of the strongest prayers there is out there. So I started telling her that, and a couple months before June, I started praying to God and I told Him, “Lord, You know my situation, You know my heart, You know I want to worship Y ou. But I cannot do it on my own will. Please help me come back to You.” And at that moment, I call it the dangerous prayer. And I said, “Lord, do whatever You have to do to me for me to come back to You. And I don’t care what it is.” And I kept on praying like that. And June 12th came. I made it out. Went to a house warming party first. We made it to PULSE nightclub and 2:02 everything just changed in an instant. I went to go get my drink, my last call drink. I came back to the main floor. And I was chatting, and all of a sudden, I heard a loud POP! to the right of my ear. I was looking forward. I saw an orange flash. I dropped my drink. And in that moment, I just heard the shots going POP! POP! POP! I decided to turn to my left to run. But I, at the moment, I didn’t notice that I was only about 5 feet away from the shooter when everything started. So, at the moment that I turned to my left to start running, I was already shot on my legs. I felt taps, this hard, hot taps on my legs. And I fell down. And I tried getting back up at that moment, but in seconds, the club was in chaos. Everyone trying to run to one door. And I was about 10 feet from the door. So, I tried to get back up to run to the door. But at that moment somebody trampled me. They stepped on my left femur and I heard my left femur snap in half over the music, over the screams, I could hear my bone breaking. I fell back down. I couldn’t do anything at this moment. I couldn’t move. My legs were in pain. People are falling on top of me. I can hear screams. I can hear glass breaking. Every time I look up, I see bodies just falling down, one by one. Everyone’s trying to exit through the same door until everyone who can, makes it outside. I hear the shooter outside. And at this moment, I look up and I just see bodies all over the place. It’s quiet in the room. I can’t believe what’s happening to me. You know, I’m trying to pinch myself from this nightmare that I’m in that I’m not waking up. And there was a lady next to me who fell down. And she was in pain. I grabbed her. She was a mom. She was there with her son. She pushed her son out of the way, and she got shot. And I held her hand and I told her, “It’s going to be fine. It’s gonna be fine.” And at that moment I hear footsteps coming in the door. So, I quieted down. And I start hearing pops again. But this time it’s slower. And it keeps happening. Pop! Pop! And I come to realize that the shooter is now shooting at everyone that is on the floor, making sure we’re all dead. So, I hear the pops coming closer and closer. The lady next to me is panicking and yelling. And I’m telling her, “You have to be quiet. He’s coming our way. Pretend you’re dead.” And I hear the shots getting closer and closer. And she’s yelling. And at that moment I decide to hold my breath, cover my face, stay still, pretend I’m dead until he leaves. And I’m hearing the pops, pops. And all of a sudden, I hear a loud-loud POP! I felt the heat. I opened my eyes. And I see the body of the lady jump up and down. I feel her hand let loose in my hand. And I look into her eyes, and her eyes just close. And at this moment, inside, I’m panicking, thinking to myself, “someone just got murdered in front of my face. I’m holding her hand. I’m next. I’m next. I don’t know what to do. I’m next.” I’m trying to pretend I’m dead, but I’m panicking inside. And I can feel his evil presence behind me. I can feel that stare, when someone’s just staring at me, and you know they’re there behind you staring at you. But I’m finding something weird. And it’s that I don’t hear any pops. I don’t feel shots. He’s just there. And I’m thinking to myself, “OK, Lord. This is the time You’re giving to me to make peace with You, because I am about to die.” I’m in the middle of the dance floor. Nothing is covering me. I am out in the open. He’s gonna shoot me. He’s gonna shoot me in the head, in my back. He’s gonna shoot me and I’m gonna die. There’s no way I’m gonna survive this. So, I started praying to God. And I’m turning to the Lord, “Forgive me God. Forgive me for what I have done to You because you didn’t leave me. I left You. You never leave us. You’re always there. It’s always us who stray away, Lord. But please forgive me, because I’m about to die. Please take me with You because I’m about to die.” And I kept praying like that. But nothing was happening. Nothing was happening. A couple minutes pass by and I can still feel the evil presence behind me. I’m like, “he’s there. The shooter’s there. Why is he not shooting?” And in that moment, something clicked in my head. And I felt spiritual warfare going on, on top of me. I can feel something heavy. And I said, “you know what? No!” And I change my prayer. And I started to prophesy upon my life. I started to say, “Lord, You promised that I had a purpose in life. You promised me that something big was happening with me. You promised me there was a ministry in my future. And none of that has happened. So that means that I need to leave here alive. And I’m going to leave here alive. And when I leave here alive, I’m going to worship You for the rest of my life, Lord.” And I kept on prophesying upon my life. I can feel the atmosphere changing because that’s what happens when you prophesy upon your life. You change the atmosphere. The Lord gives to you the power and the authority to change the atmosphere wherever you are. And that’s what I was doing at that moment. I was prophesying upon my life. And I kept on praying. I kept on praying. And in the moment that I said, “Amen,” from that prayer, I heard a loud POP! I felt my body jump up and down. I felt a heat in my mid-section. And I just saw black. At that moment, I thought I was gone. I thought I was dead. And then I heard footsteps walking away. And I took that time, I moved a little bit. And I opened my eyes and I said, “Lord, Thank You! Thank You I am alive.” All of these people around me are dead. I look around again and everybody that was around me was dead. And I am alive. And I just started thanking God, “Thank You Jesus! Thank You Lord!” I kept telling Him, “Thank You! I promise You the moment I get out of here I am testifying about You. I am worshipping You for the rest of my life. Thank You for protecting me. Thank You for being here with me, Lord.” And at that moment, I see a light through the door and cops coming in. They grab me. I asked the cop to carry me. And because there’s procedures, they only can drag me out of the club. I tell them “do whatever you have to do to get me out of here.” And started to drag me. And I can hear the shots going on in the other room. So the cop is trying to run, both of us forgetting that there’s glass shattered on the floor. So, I’m feeling the pain of the glass going through my wounds. But at the same time, I’m just telling the cop, “Go! Go! Go!” I was scared the shooter was going to come back in and start shooting us in the room. But thanks to God I made it out of the club. By His will, I am here today. And, you know, I made it. I got to the hospital. The chaos is going on in the hospital. But luckily, I was able to get into surgery that morning. And a couple days later the nurse comes in. And throughout those couple days, I’m thinking I thought I was only shot 3 times, ‘cause that’s what I remember. Some slaps on my legs and the last shot that I received. But the nurse comes in and tells me, “Angel, you were approximately shot six times.” At that moment, I’m just thanking the Lord. I’m like, I don’t know how. I don’t remember six times. I don’t remember any of that. He said, “Yes, by the fragments and the bullets that we see, you were approximately shot six times.” And, you know, I couldn’t figure out how. But of course, today, I’m like, “It was all Jesus.” By the grace of Him I am walking today with no cane, with no wheelchair, no crutches. I am walking again, testifying and assuring to the world that God is real.
JULIE ROYS: That is one of the most phenomenal stories I’ve ever heard.
ANNOUNCER: Now, more of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: Well, is change possible for gay and trans people? The world says, “no.” But my guests today say, “yes.” Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. I have two guests. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. So Angel, I’m just envisioning as you’re saying you’re lying on the floor, and you’re praying not just, “God help me” but you start engaging in spiritual warfare. And I’m just imagining in my mind, like you said, you felt this spiritual battle above you, of the angels fighting the demons. You know, the principalities of the air, and of God, you know, and they’re fighting on your behalf. That is amazing. And it’s amazing in that moment that God gave you that ability to do that, and that insight to do that.
ANGEL COLON: Amen, yeah. The Lord, that night, gave me strength every time I was shot. I didn’t yell every time I was shot. I didn’t move. It was like this strength came upon me, that the Lord was already telling me, “I know what I’m gonna do. Relax.” And it was just, He was there. He was there with me the whole night.
JULIE ROYS: Well, if anybody doesn’t believe in the sovereignty of God, that kind of story is one of those that you just can’t help but escape that there was some sovereignty there. And God chose you to survive. And I know you probably lost some friends. Some of the bodies that you saw around you were people you loved. And that must have been heart breaking. Am I right?
ANGEL COLON: Yeah, it was just crazy. Seeing, you know, just a couple seconds before that we were dancing. We were chatting. Everyone was happy. And now everyone around me is dead. It was something to get over, especially the PTSD. But the Lord, you know has healed me from that as well. So to Him all the Glory.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, and to be able to even talk about it, you know, what, 3 years ago, not that long ago, but to be able to talk about it is just a testimony to God’s grace and the power of Him working in you. And I’m guessing, Luis, you’re hearing this, I know you’ve heard it probably from Angel telling a million times. But I doubt that really gets old, does it Luis?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Right. It’s powerful. Every time I get choked up just hearing it. Yeah, it’s a beautiful story.
ANGEL COLON: Actually, I’m going to add one more thing. The amazing thing is that the house party that I was in, I crashed into Luis.
JULIE ROYS: Oh really?
ANGEL COLON: And, yes. And it’s crazy, you know, to know that 3 years later, who would know that we would be in ministry together, fighting for the kingdom of God? And now we’re here. That is just, you know, it’s so crazy, and I love it!
JULIE ROYS: So when you say you crashed in, you mean like you guys met at that party beforehand or did you know each other before?
ANGEL COLON: We already knew each other a couple years before that, but I hadn’t seen him for a while. And that’s part of his story that I crashed into him that night again. I had not seen him for a while and it was crazy.
JULIE ROYS: So Luis, pick it up there, from your perspective.
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yes, absolutely. So before PULSE happened, and just a little snippet of it. I was in the scene. I think, but I was more bound by alcohol and drugs. And just getting out of the military at 15 years learning how to become a civilian (laughter) you know? Growing up in the church, having parents that always prayed for me and never compromised the truth, I would find myself in the church. And my problem wasn’t that when I would go into the church, this church was, I think, more focused on trying to see the change outside than inside. So I had to like check the box. And I had to do a lot of religion and relationship. And, you know, you get saved. And then a week later you need to have a girlfriend. Because that’s what salvation looks like, and not the fruits of the Spirit, you know? And things like I needed to walk different and talk different. So, it just got me to a place where I ran back to the LGBT community, you know? Because I didn’t find true love or the love that I was looking for in the church. I went and tried to find it in a counterfeit love outside. So 1 year before PULSE, I found a church. I was drunk. Found a church that was open like at 3 o’clock in the morning. And I was like, “what is going on in here?” So I stopped. Luckily, you know, I didn’t get into no accident. I believe God was watching over me. And I entered into this church and this little lady sat next to me while this worship was going on. And I was like, “Wow, this is amazing—three in the morning and these people are just worshipping God.” And long story short, she brought me to know Jesus. And I accepted Him as my Lord and personal Savior. And like Angel said, that I disappeared for a while. So, I literally tried it again. I said, “You know what, I’m going to give this a go again.” And for a whole year, I was just, I deleted all my Facebook. I cut friends off. I mean I disappeared for a whole year just trying to find this change, you know? To find, I just wanted to pray the gay away. Do things that I thought, you know, would bring change. But it actually brought more struggle because I was doing things on my own strength and then not depending on God’s strength. And I didn’t have that community that I have now. And so was struggling. And when I brought my, brought to the attention some people my struggles, they were all for me until they found about the struggle. Then they would distant handshakes and distant hugs, you know? (laughter) So on my birthday weekend I saw a couple of friends at the mall. And this couple at the mall had invited me to PULSE for my birthday weekend. And it was gay days as well. So they invited me to that. And I was like, “you know what? I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna go, no one’s gonna find out.” The whole world found out. (laughter) So, mine was a struggle I was having where I just blew up. Instead of going to my pastor to sit down and talk to him or other people where I can, you know, I didn’t have that. I didn’t reach out for that is the better answer. And because I didn’t reach out for that, I was like a bomb. I exploded. And I went right back. And so that very night, it’s crazy, because I had signs everywhere. You know, it’s like God was warning me like from everywhere. This prophet came to the church and he just said that, he knows that I’ve been struggling and that the Lord knows that there’s things in my life that will occur. And not out of a place of fear, but he saw people around me trying to fight for their lives. Running for their lives. He didn’t understand but he was like there’s people surrounding you. They’re running for their lives. I don’t know what the Lord’s trying to tell me but they’re running for their lives and just telling me that, you know, be careful and to get more into the Lord. And then a week later . . .
JULIE ROYS: And how far, how much before the PULSE shooting was that? That he prophesied that?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: This was a couple weeks before. And I grew up in the church too, so it was hard for me to receive prophecy like that. For me, because I was already struggling and I was going through my stuff, I was like, “OK, this guy must have talked to the pastor. This guy must have talked to some people.” And, you know, “I’ll pray about it.” But, you know, I was just so on the fence with it, growing up in church, some things you just become cold to. And then like a week later, my Mom calls me and she tells me, “Hey I need you to sit down. I just had a dream. And if you had a mom like I did, she used to have dreams so that I could just go to church.” Do you know what I mean? (laughter) She was like, “I had a dream! I had a dream!” A lot of times it was to put fear in my heart so that I could run back to church. So, I was like, “Mom! I’m going to church. Don’t worry. Everything’s OK!” And she’s like, “No-no-no-no. This dream is very different. This dream has me freaked out.” She said that in this dream, I was at a club and that everyone around me was dying. There was blood all over my clothes. There was blood everywhere. And that I had looked up—and she was looking down in the dream, and I looked up and I said, ‘Mom! Help me!’ And she woke up instantly and activated the church to pray. Told my Dad to pray. She hadn’t told me this ‘till she reached out to me. And during all this, I was just telling her, “Wow, Mom. Please pray for this. Like this is crazy.” Like I’m going to church and I got kinda mad. Because I was just like, “She’s using things to get me, to put fear in my heart.” And then after that, on the way to PULSE I had a fight with 2 guys from the church that were trying to stop me from going. And they were just like, “Hey, it’s your birthday weekend. Let’s hang out with you. You don’t need to go to the club. Just hang out with us.” And it got into a big old fight. So it’s like God was trying to like, “Hey! Hey! I’m trying to protect you from something.” And so, I went to a house party. And at that house party, I was with a lot of friends that are no longer with us. And I was celebrating my birthday weekend. A friend was celebrating his new apartment. And invited us all over. I saw Angel Colon. And he looked at me and he said, “Hey, are you going to PULSE?” And I was like, “Yeah! I’ll see you there! I’m going to PULSE!” That was our last time that we saw each other for a long time. And I ended up going to PULSE. And like Angel said, everyone was having a great time. People were saying, “Happy Birthday!” to me. There was so much going on that night. And it was last call for alcohol. It was about 2 in the morning, 2:02. And all of a sudden, I hear someone saying, “Run for your life!” And I look over to my friend that invited me to PULSE, and I said, “Why are they trying to kick us out of the club?” They just said, “Last call for alcohol.” And, you know, I’m hearing what sounds to be like fireworks. And I’m like, “Whoa! What is that?!” And right at that instant, the shooter’s in front and just shooting away. I mean I can see the muzzle and everything. And my friend grabs me because I was a little tipsy, and he said, “Run for your life!” And when I looked back, he was shot. His boyfriend was shot—jumped in front of him. People were fending for their lives. Everything happened so fast. We were trying to get out of this small little door. Imagine everyone from the club trying to get out of this small door. It was just so crazy. People were screaming. I end up in the patio area where people are jumping over the fence. But I was too scared to because I was like, “Okay, this guy’s going to shoot people down.” And then we find a little area to the back where we’re kicking it down to try to fend for, to try to escape. And as we kick down the fence, my foot gets stuck in the fence. I fall down. And I’m being trampled on because everybody now sees this exit. And I was in pain. I was hurting. I couldn’t get up. And long story short, I just ended up at the 7-11 across the street.
JULIE ROYS: So, how’d you get out then? I mean your foot’s stuck. People are trampling you. How’d you get to that 7-11?
LUIS JAVIER RUIS: That’s the amazing part of this story is that out of nowhere someone came back, I guess, to see if he could try to help people, or what. And he picked me up and he said, “Come on, let’s go!” And walked me over down to the 7-11 where I was able to sit down and see other people that were hiding inside of the 7-11. And that’s how that happened. I didn’t go to the hospital where Angel Colon was at or anybody because I was scared because they were saying that the shooter was going to go into the hospital or other shooters were going to go to go finish the job. So we were all in fear, scared. I ended up going to the hospital the next day. And I finally got like a . . . one part that I forgot to mention was that while I was on the floor, I pick up my phone to call my mother. And as I call my mother, because I thought like I was going to die, I was in pain, I was in, like you know what, I have no other choice but to say, “I’m sorry.” And I call her and she’s hearing these shots that are, she’s hearing me like freaked out. And I’m like, “Mom! Mom!” And the phone dies.
JULIE ROYS: Oh my word!
LUIS JAVIER RUIS: The phone completely dies.
JULIE ROYS: Your poor mother.
LUIS JAVIER RUIS: Yes!
JULIE ROYS: Your poor mother.
LUIS JAVIER RUIS: So later on . . . I put her through it! Later on, she tells me that she called my Dad, she wakes up my Dad to, you know, pray and tells the church to pray. So I’m at the hospital bed the next day. And I’m just seeing the names pop up on the TV as I’m texting, “Hey! Did you make it out okay? Are you okay?” And then BAM! I’d see their names on the screen—Dead. Dead. Dead. And their picture. That whole day, everyone was just watching names, you know, come up on the screen. And like I told everybody, imagine losing one friend or someone that’s died. Imagine losing like 49. You know, granted, I didn’t know all the 49. But I knew a great load of them. After that, about a week later, I find out that I’m HIV positive. And I knew nothing about the disease. I just knew people were gettin’ it. I thought to myself, “I would never get it.” But because I was living a promiscuous life, I find out that I’m HIV positive. So imagine dealing with deaths and then dealing with this. And I just blew up. I could not do this no longer. And that’s when, on my bed, I asked God to come into my heart. I said “I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’m a gay man. I need Your help. I don’t know what to do.” You know? And I’ve asked Him into my heart. And this is where I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying, “It’s not a gay to straight thing. It’s a lost to saved thing. Fall in love with Me. Fall in love with Jesus.” And that’s what I learned to do, you know? And it took a while ‘till I got into a church. Because a lot of the church, they were calling me and they were saying, “Hey, that’s judgment from God! Like what were you doing there in the first place? You shouldn’t have been there.” So imagine now, all these events are happening, and man, the church, some of the people from the church, not everybody, some of the people they were just like, “You shouldn’t have been there. What were you doing there? That’s judgment from God because homosexuality is abomination.” Oh, it was terrible. And like I said, it had to be intervention from the Holy Spirit, from Jesus. So I said, “I don’t want anything but You,” that change was able to come into my heart. Then later on I found a church and a pastor that loved me and that supports everything that I do. And I was able to walk through the journey of change, you know? And I was able to learn how to fall in love with Him and give him all of me. And not just my sexuality. And it changed my life forever. Forever.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. The story is so powerful I mean there’s so many ups and there’s so many downs too, I’m hearing both of you saying, “the church didn’t know how to help me when I wanted it and when I was looking for it.” And yet at the same time God broke through. An incredible and miraculous story. But let me rewind just a little bit if I could. And then I want to get into your process of healing since PULSE and how that worked out.
ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report, with Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: Well welcome back to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. I have two guests. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. The story is so powerful I mean there’s so many ups and there’s so many downs too, I’m hearing both of you saying, “the church didn’t know how to help me when I wanted it and when I was looking for it.” And yet at the same time God broke through. An incredible and miraculous story. But let me rewind just a little bit if I could. Luis, your Dad, he’s a pastor right?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yes, He’s a pastor.
JULIE ROYS: So, here you are as a young man. You know, when were you aware that you had same sex attraction?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: It happened at a very young age. I want to say, oh man, maybe 7 years old I found out. And back then, it wasn’t like today where we have internet, so, it was magazines and things like that I would find and he would find in my room, and what’s it called. Through all this process, my Dad being a pastor, it wasn’t that my son was coming out as gay, or because he was abused when he was a kid by his uncle. So he saw me as another abuser. You know, back then we don’t have what we know now. And it’s not so open like then. Back then people thought of gay people as, you know drug addicts and sleeping around and AIDS and abusers, you know? Because that’s the way he saw gay people, in his life growing up. So it’s just in our relationship, as a pastor, it questioned his ministry. I mean there is just so much going on that I thank God that finally we were able to fix all that.
JULIE ROYS: You said you were abused by an uncle when you were young?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: No, no. My father was abused by his uncle. Yeah so because he was abused, he saw me as an abuser. He didn’t see me as, “Oh my son’s coming out as gay.” So, they questioned their ministry. They questioned their self as parents. I mean it was a journey for them as well.
JULIE ROYS: Sure, but as a young man I’m sure you don’t know how to process any of that. It just feels like probably a lot of shame.
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Right. Yeah, it was. It was a lot of, “You’re going to hell. Abomination.” Because the church didn’t know how to react to it.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. And Angel, same sort of thing?
ANGEL COLON: For me, yeah I was about 5 years old when I started to notice at a very very young age. And my parents, they were very involved in the church. But it was something that I always heard you know, “abomination, you’re going to hell. It’s not right.” And every time someone would mention homosexuality, you know, there awkwardness in the room. So I didn’t feel safe or comfortable, you know, to bring it up. But at the same time, growing up as a teen and still having this same sex attraction, I didn’t have a mentor that could speak to me. I didn’t have a community that I could reach out to. Every time I would think about it, someone would preach about homosexuality, but it was preaching with hate. I felt that hate. I could feel homophobia in the preaching. So that would scare me. And I wouldn’t speak about it. There was no openness in the church. You can only speak about certain sins and certain struggles that you’re going through. But if the sin or the struggle or the temptation was hardcore, it was something you didn’t really bring it up. It was only you and Jesus. Which is right. But at the same time you need someone there with you. You need someone that you can speak to because if not, everything is going to bottle up inside and that’s what happened to me everything bottled up inside, until I was 18 years old. My dad ended up cheating on my mom with my best friend, a girl from church. That destroyed me. That turned my life upside down. And I was like, “you know what? If he can do that and he’s a minister, then I can live my life the way I want to live my life.” I don’t blame everything on that but that was the thing that helped open the door for me to just leave with no excuse, with no remorse, with no fear. So, when I came out, it was very easy for me because I was like “Dad you did this. Okay, I’m gay.” So, to come out for me, it was easy. It was more, it was crazy but it was like a revenge. Like, “Look, you did this well I can finally come out and you think you have to be okay with it either way.” You know? Because that’s the way I told my dad when I came out. Or when he found out, I was like, “You live your life with your wife. That means that I can live my life with mine. And you need to respect me the same way that I am respecting you.” So, basically, “you need to get over it.”
JULIE ROYS: That’s powerful because I think a valid criticism of the church is that we speak so much about homosexuality but we don’t talk about divorce and adultery and, you know, all these other things that are going on rampant in the church. And how can we have a moral platform to speak into homosexual sin if were not speaking into heterosexual sin and what’s happening there. And your story just points out that it’s all sin and we can’t look at one and not at the other. I mean, that’s hypocrisy.
ANGEL COLON: Yeah, and the crazy thing now is that we get so many messages from pastors and evangelists, people in their ministry that are struggling with this but they are scared to reach out for help because the church is going to kick them out of the church, their own church. You know, people from the church are going to treat them a specific way. And that is horrible. You should be able to reach out to someone and ask for help because at least you’re speaking out about it, you know? You’re confessing it and that you need help. So the church has put a lot of fear into people that they don’t even speak about what they’re going through.
JULIE ROYS: And the problem is, you’ve got the church where you don’t feel like you fit, where you feel like you’re judged, where people don’t get you. And then you have the gay community, that’s very accepting, very loving, and where you can have a feeling of belonging instantly. And it’s not hard to figure out why struggling persons go to the LGBT community when they have that experience in the church. So, I mean, I think your testimony is powerful. Let’s move now, fast forward beyond your time at PULSE. So you’ve had this experience with God, both of you, within days, or the day of the PULSE experience. And you’re making peace with God but now you’ve got to walk it out. And that process of walking it out, you kind of tried it before, Luis and not been real successful. And Angel you’d fought with it too. I mean you wanted to worship the Lord but you couldn’t. So what changed? And talk about that process now of walking out, “Lord I’m going to follow you and I’m going to forsake this same sex attraction.” Tell me what that looks like.
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yeah, so I had to die to a lot of things. I had to understand that it was not deprivation, it was preservation. I had to understand that it wasn’t a formula. It wasn’t a how to or 5-steps to be delivered. It was Jesus. You see, I was making freedom my god and not Christ Jesus my God. I felt like that I need in this walk that I had to understand that if I did fall, that His grace would be there with truth. You know, for a long time, I thought that if I slipped, I messed up, and I have no other way to be redeemed. I might as well just go back into the things that I was doing. But God had to do a rewire of my heart. Not upgrade my heart. But replace it with a new one. You know, because I was very broken. I was sexually addicted. I had a lot of rejection. I was an orphan. Though I had a Mom and Dad, I still felt like an orphan because when this happened, they rejected me because I was gay. They loved me but at the same time, they just couldn’t accept things. So, I had to deal with that, you know? I got love and support from a community that said, “Hey, we’re going to stand by you. We’re going to pray. And we’re going to walk with you through this journey. And it wasn’t easy. And it hasn’t been easy. We’ve never arrived, and I don’t ever want to say, “I’ve arrived.” But I definitely want to say that I’m walking now with a sight on Jesus. And it’s all about Jesus. It’s Jesus that I came to when I accepted Him at the beginning. And it’s gonna be Him when He accepts me into the kingdom of heaven. So I have to put my eyesight on Jesus and just know that if I don’t have Jesus at the forefront and the center of my heart and fall in love with Him, I’m talking about a deep love-sick relationship with Him, then all these formulas, how-to’s, counselors will do nothing for me but just put me in a cycle of sin. A secret cycle of sin at that. So, the more I lay my head down on Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, the less I have to lay down my head on a psychologist’s lap, or, you know, someone that’s trying to bring change to my life. So, all this is great, and I love it. And I know many men of God this has been helpful to. But, like I said, the forefront of my change was Jesus and direction of the Holy Spirit, that intimacy with the Father.
JULIE ROYS: And do you still struggle? I mean, it sounds like, yeah, it’s still there. But maybe not as powerful as it was before, the same-sex attraction?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yeah, I tell people that all the time. If you’re looking for this perfect changed person, I’ve not arrived yet. I definitely have to use the “don’t look twice” rule. Do you know what I mean? And I have to trust that God is going to be in that journey, you know? I no longer desire to be with a man. But temptation still comes when I wake up. Temptation still comes. Now I have the tools to respond to temptation.
ANNOUNCER: You’re listening to The Roys Report with your host, Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: Well can gays and transgender people change? The world says they can’t. But my guests today say they can. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. I have two guests. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. So Angel, what about your process?
ANGEL COLON: Yeah, well I was laying in the hospital, I thought that night was the hardest process, now being in pain in the hospital, now seeing every time I did therapy, how I knew that my life physically was going to be changed. But then I came to find out that the process afterwards was going to be the hardest part of the process. I ended up being the first interview after PULSE, the first interview of all of the survivors. I had no idea it was gonna go down like that. They had just asked me a couple days after to do a quick press conference with the doctors. So, they put me in a wheelchair. They gave me the medications so I could be OK. And as I get strolled into the room, I go in and there’s 100’s of cameras, 100’s of people in that room. I had no idea this was gonna happen. And they’re like, “Hey, can you please share what happened that night?” So, I shared my story. And after that, I came back to the room. And 20 minutes later, my name was all over the world.
JULIE ROYS: Sure, it was.
ANGEL COLON: I had no idea this was gonna go down like that. I started getting calls from all over the world. Interviews while I was in the hospital. So, it was kinda like overwhelming for me. Everything was happening so fast, in the hospital. I wasn’t really having time to heal, at that moment. It was just so fast. My room was full every day in the hospital until, you know, I was discharged. And my name, I became like a local celebrity. Everywhere I went, someone wanted to take a picture.
JULIE ROYS: That initial interview, did you tell them about what had happened as far as your prayer and what transpired spiritually for you that night? How open were you about it?
ANGEL COLON: I wasn’t open yet, at that time. I just shared what had happened that night. I kept saying, you know, I kept mentioning God’s name. But I still wasn’t open yet, clearly, on everything that happened that night. So, when I was discharged from the hospital, they started having events for the club, events in other states. So, I was starting to get invited to all these things. I was hired for a speech company to do some speeches on LGBT, the PULSE nightclub. I was getting paid very, very, very well. I started flying to California, to New York. I went to the GLAAD awards, which is like the gay Oscars. Out100 magazines, I was in magazine covers. And I was going to church as well at this time. I gave my life to Christ. I started to worship. And months later I started to notice, I’m like, “Wait, Angel, okay so what are you doing?” Now I’m attending to all these things. I’m still kind of living a double life because I still was, every time I went some where I would meet a guy that I liked and I would kind of date him. And, you know, and get to know them, and then come back home and go to church. And I was starting to get offered movie offers, reality TV show offers, a gay dating show offer. And to my head, I would think to myself, “Why are these people not seeing that I’m going to church, you know?” I’m posting me worshiping. I’m posting that I’m in church. And then I come to realize on my own, they’re so happy with me going to church because they think that I’m their role model. They think I’m an advocate. They think I’m a gay Christian. And they’re like, that blew my mind. And I was like, “No! No! No! That is not what I want to portray.” You know, it took me a good year, year and a half to really stand firm after PULSE. And be like, “Lord, I am sorry. I didn’t even notice that I, this whole time I’ve been living in two waters. You saved my life in this tragedy. And I’m here living in two waters. How dare I?” You know, that’s how I started thinking of myself. “How dare I? Why am I not testifying 0f what You’ve done in my life? Why am I not testifying of just You? Not even me. Of how great You are, how powerful You are, how real You are?” And you know, I would fight with the Lord because, you know, I still had same sex attraction. I would tell the Lord, “Lord, I went through this tragedy. I gave my life to you. Why am I still feeling this way? Why, you know, why have you not changed me?” Because I still had the hope that the Church gave me, that you will know that you’re free once you don’t have that struggle anymore. And that was a false hope that I had in me. Until once again, you know, I changed my prayers. Something clicked in my head and I said, “You know what Lord, once again, I am sorry for what I’ve done. I give you my heart. I surrender to you completely. And I give you my struggle. I give you this temptation that I’m going through. I give you this. But not only that, I give you my whole heart.” A lot of times we tend to idolize just one part of our heart. And we ask the Lord to change that part. And we totally forget that we’re messed up completely. There’s more to us, you know, that God needs to work on. And I told the Lord, you know, “Take it all. Take it all. I’m sorry. I’m going to focus on loving You. I’m going to focus on my relationship with You. I’m going to focus on getting to know You more.” And at that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “That’s all He wanted. He wanted all of you. He wanted everything. He wanted you to surrender to Him. Don’t worry about the rest. He’s going to take care of your baggage. Just focus on Jesus. Focus on your relationship with Him.” And at that moment my life changed completely. At that moment I got to connect again with Luis. And I remember I wanted to actually share my testimony to the world of me leaving the homosexual lifestyle. And I remember Luis did it first. And I was scared because of all the backlash and persecution that he got after he did it. And I saw him going through that. And I was like, “Oh no. Like, I know I need to do that. I’m scared.” And I remember telling him, “Luis, I know I need to testify. I’m scared. I just saw what you went through. I saw the pain you went through.” The Lord told me, “You need to go through this, and I will take you to another level with Me.” And I did that, and once again my life changed. I got backlash, persecution. But the person I became after I started testifying to the world, after I’d shared to the world that He is my God, that change is possible, that I’ve left the homosexual lifestyle, my level of boldness and fearless just reached to something else. God, at that moment, God changed us both, you know, Luis too, after he testified. Like we became someone else. We became these men, these soldiers, these generals that aren’t scared anymore, to share where ever they can go, the gospel of God. And my life, you know, changed, you know? And at that moment, I knew that the real definition of freedom and deliverance was that you can look at temptation in the face. And you can tell that “I don’t want you. I want Jesus.” The true meaning of freedom and deliverance is when you can overcome that struggle. When you know that you’re not a slave to that temptation anymore. That’s how you know what freedom and deliverance is. And it’s a feeling of, it’s amazing knowing that you’re free, knowing that you can overcome these temptations through Jesus. Because that is the answer that we need. That is the only answer we need is Jesus. And He’s amazing and I fall in love with Him more and more every day. Now I know what true love is, what true peace is and what true happiness is, in Jesus.
JULIE ROYS: Your story is just, I mean it’s so powerful. And your testimony of how you became a different person, just like Second Corinthians 5:17 says, you know, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. And when we step into the light in faith, like you did, and testify to the Lord and say, “This is how I’m going to live,” make a public testimony of that, we begin to live in that new creation, in that new reality. And the old truly is gone. And we become that new creation. And I just love what you’re saying. I remember once, just being challenged, “Hey, if you’re going to a new environment, tell them quickly that you’re a Christian. Just make that public testimony.” Because, you know, if they find out a year down the line, “You’re a Christian? Wait. Why didn’t you tell me about that a long time ago?” All that communicates is, “You weren’t really serious about it, were you?” I mean, if you’re serious about it, everybody would know. Because this is your passion, your love. So, I love that. We just have a few minutes left. We’re going to have to wrap it up pretty soon. We could talk for hours, man. But I want to talk about, you know, you have a new ministry now called Fearless Identity. I know you’ve got these Freedom Marches coming up. And the church, I think, you know, you’re forging this path that I think is avoiding two ditches in the church. I think we have, we heard both of ‘em today. We heard one where you said, you know, as a kid your church really went sort-of into that ditch of rejection and, you know, “just pray the gay away and you’ll be better. And we want you to look like this.” And not really dealing with the inner struggle and with you as a person and the process that you needed to go through. I think that’s one ditch, is that rejection. The other ditch, you talked about, Angel how they loved it, man, when you were posting that you were going to church, and you were “out and proud” kind of thing. And we have this affirmation where it’s like not just affirming the person, but now we’re affirming the sin. And saying, “this lifestyle is just fine.” And you guys, I think, are taking what I see as, this is the Biblical road, and showing the church, modeling for the church. And I have to say, you know, I happen to go to kind of a strange church, we’ve got dozens of people that have come out of this lifestyle. Many of them, you wouldn’t know it because they don’t really talk about it anymore. It’s years in the past. Some of them are married and have kids. They’re living a different life. But I’ve seen lots of people come out of this lifestyle. So, for me, it’s not like, this bizarre thing that nobody can do. It is something that people can do. But they can’t do it in their own power. They have to do it by the power of the Spirit. And I do think what we have in the church is, it isn’t a sexuality crisis. It’s a faith crisis. Because we don’t believe in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ anymore. You know, we believe God can raise us from the dead someday, but He can’t change our sexuality. I don’t understand that whole entire way of thinking. But speak to it, would you, your ministry now, and how you’re calling the church to walk this road of transformation, yet love and acceptance at the same time of the struggler.
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yeah, so Fearless Identity was actually birthed through persecution. All the persecution that Angel said. That when I shared my testimony, and he shared his, we’re getting backlash like crazy. What we were seeing with the backlash is people were coming to Jesus! Like it was so crazy! It’s like, people were so scared to share their story, but in all this, in the behind the scenes, God was working because I had ex-lovers that were coming to Jesus because they saw a Facebook Live that they were making about me and laughing about me. And people like in high places were talking about me. This brought people to email me and say, “Hey, I want to know about this Jesus that you’re so in love with. How do I do this?” So, that’s how Fearless Identity. So, what we’re doing is we’re sounding the alarm in the church. We didn’t talk about it before. So now Fearless Identity, Angel and I and our team, we’re being vocal. We’re being transparent about it. And we are actually implementing or making small groups in the churches where people can come and have community. One thing that Angel and I saw when we grew up is, we felt like we were alone. Like we had no one to talk to about this. Like, the men could talk about their pornography issues, and their lusting over women. But when we rose our hand and said, “Hey, uh, I like guys,” it was a whole elephant in the room. We couldn’t talk about it. In fact, there was a lot of rejection. So, we want to build communities in churches, and we want to spread it like fire. But the main thing that I’ve seen, and I spoke to Angel about this the other day, is that we are bringing the message of people returning to their first love. Like if you will return to Jesus, and your first love, then you don’t need this magic pill. You don’t need these special words. You have the Man that makes the change, with the Holy Spirit, that will allow you to speak to that coworker at work that is struggling with homosexuality, or that person that you know, or that family member. Because you’ll reek with Jesus. You’ll reek with the Holy Spirit, that everything around you will provoke anyone, the prostitute, the liar, the prideful heart, the homosexual, whatever the case may be, to want what you have. Because of that secret place that you’re in, in the public it would just speak so right. You’d want to be in it. You’d want to be provoked to it. So that’s what we do. (laughter) We’re very transparent. And then with PULSE. PULSE was the vehicle that God is just using to let people know that, that was grace. I should have been number 50. We should have been number 50, 51. But because of His grace, we are standing here today. And we are alive, and we are breathing to share the message of Jesus. Perfect love casts out fear.
JULIE ROYS: Amen! You know it reminds me of Joseph saying that thing that you meant for evil, that Satan meant for evil, God turned to good. So God can use even the Satanic, awful, hateful, murderous events and turn it for good to His kingdom. One last thing, you guys, as I understand Freedom March is coming up in September?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yes.
JULIE ROYS: And coming back to Orlando? Is this right?
ANGEL COLON: Yeah! Yes.
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: So exciting! So exciting!
JULIE ROYS: I want to go! Man, I want to be there for this. But, tell us about it.
ANGEL COLON: Yeah . . . all the other Freedom Marches we have done have been amazing. We’ve seen the lives, the souls come to Christ. And . . .
JULIE ROYS: Describe Freedom March. I’m sorry, describe what that is. I mean, I know what that is. You know what that is. But people listening, they may not know. What are these Freedom Marches?
ANGEL COLON: No, yeah. It’s mainly a march event. We start off with prayer, of course. We do a worship set, as well. And then we give the opportunity for 12 overcomers to speak and share their testimonies on how they’ve overcome homosexuality. And we do an altar call at the end because we know that at every march we know that there are going to be souls that are going to come to Christ. So we do an altar call. And then after that we march around that property, marching and letting the town know that there is change through Jesus Christ.
JULIE ROYS: OK. So that’s the Freedom March Orlando. You going to be doing this same kind of event there Saturday, September 14th, 2019. If people want information, they go to FreedomToMarch.com. You can hear all about it. And so both of you will be there, right?
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yes, we are hosting the event. So we are so excited.
ANGEL COLON: Yes, you are!
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: It’s going to be fun.
JULIE ROYS: Wow, well, we’re going to need to pray for you and uphold you and support you in that. I mean, you guys are pushing back the darkness and you’re right on the front lines. So, man, I appreciate what you’re doing. God bless you guys and thanks for taking the time to tell your stories. And thanks more for your fidelity to Jesus Christ and your testimony. So thank you.
LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Thank you for the opportunity.
ANGEL COLON: Amen.
JULIE ROYS: You bet. Well, and thanks to all of you listening for joining The Roys Report. Again, I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to connect with me, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign up for email updates at my website. And if you’ve liked this podcast or have any feedback, I encourage you to leave a review at my website or at Apple or Google Podcast or wherever it is that you’re hearing this program. Thanks again for listening and God Bless.